My grandfather, Rabbi Abraham Korbman z'l was born a Ger Hasid (a Hasidic “dynasty” numbering more than 100,000 before the Holocaust and originating in a small town in Poland). I miss Zaide dearly, and still remember his thirst for study. Today, as consolation, I have a penchant for the lessons of the Ger Rabbis. One of my favorites to re-tell is the observation of why we constantly cover and uncover the matzah at a traditional Passover Seder.
According to the Ger tradition, the covering and uncovering is to teach the important Jewish lesson of modesty. We are asked by the prophet Micah to “walk humbly” with God (6:8). Most of the time, they taught, the matzah should remain covered, modest, unassuming.
But there are times in life when the matzah ought to be uncovered. Given an opportunity to educate, to enlighten, to model certain behaviors, then it is important to uncover and demonstrate to others.
I was thinking about this teaching when I was in the living room of Alan and Ellen Goldner, sitting next to my friend Rabbi Greg Litcofsky of Temple Emanuel of Livingston. We were listening to Ruth Ravina, a Holocaust survivor, address a group gathered for an informational meeting about our upcoming Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Mission to Poland and Israel scheduled for May 5 to 15, 2016. We were, in a word, mesmerized.
As a small girl in Poland, Ruth’s parents were taken by the Nazis and she was left with her grandparents.
In what was a miraculous series of events, the day before they were to be deported to Treblinka, three neighborhood girls came and took Ruth into the forest. From there she was smuggled into a nearby labor camp where she was reunited with her mother… but she was hidden in plain sight. The Nazis didn’t know about her. And for years, from ghetto to forest to concentration camp, Ruth survived as a “life is beautiful” child, protected anonymously by her mother and others.
The matzah was covered. For years.
Today, you have a unique opportunity to visit meaningful sites of Jewish heritage in Poland and Israel with survivors like Ruth for whom, only a generation ago, visiting Israel would have been a dream. It is time to uncover and to learn about the past, and to see and celebrate our strength and vitality as Jews who have survived and flourished.
In Hebrew, the word which means to go forward is KeDiMa. Interestingly, its Hebrew root, KDM or Kedem (in transliteration), means past. We recite in the Shabbat morning liturgy, “turn to us God and we shall return to the days of the past/Kedem.” Put differently, as Jews, our future is rooted in the past, as this Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow Mission will distinctly demonstrate.
I have to believe Zaide would have been proud of this journey.
To find out more about our mission to Poland and Israel, click here.